Many months ago I began this post. It started as just a title. I was studying the attributes of God last year for Sunday school and the Love of God was the final topic. One of the questions I pondered was this: Does God love the non-elect, and, if so, how? That is to say, if He does, then what is the nature of that Love, since it certainly manifests differently from His love for His elect.
A few assumptions need to be made which I will declare without providing proof.
- There is a group of people called the elect which God has saved or will save.
- Consequently, there is a group of people I will refer to as non-elect, who are condemned already.
- God clearly loves the elect, and the elect are beneficiaries of saving grace.
- The Bible is the only possible source for revelation and must be the source for the answer to this question. That is, logic of men cannot be used to derive the answer, only God’s Word.
- If the answer is not clearly implied, we may use good rules of interpretation to infer, but we ought not be too dogmatic about our conclusion if this is the case
Arguments AGAINST God loving the non-elect:
I have read and watched and heard arguments against God loving the non-elect. They are basically summed up in this way.
Romans 9:13 ESV As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
THEREFORE, since God hated Esau, God did not love Esau. QED.
Now that was easy, wasn’t it? Then we can tack on that if God loves the non-elect so much, why is He sending them to Hell? Again, the arguer believes he has clearly demonstrated that God does not love the non-elect. I am not convinced.
I see a couple of problems with these arguments.
An assumption is made for which I cannot find biblical support. (Please contact me if you do!) That assumption is that God cannot simultaneously Love and Hate the same person. The scripture does not say that God cannot love and hate. Granted, the Romans 9 reference may seem to imply that God either loves or hates, but I am not sure it must mean that God does one or the other. If there is a place in scripture where God says that it is impossible for Him to love and hate at the same time, please show it to me.
E.G., the Bible also has several instances of God “repenting,” yet He is clear in 1 Sam 15:29 that he repenteth NOT, he is not like a man. So it seems that God frequently CONDESCENDS to use language that makes sense to us so that we can understand him, even just a little.
I do not find scripturally an argument which says, God cannot Love and Hate the same creature. So I deny the God must not love Esau because of the “He hated him” argument.
Furthermore, the word for hated in Esau have I hated is from a primary word μῖσος misos (hatred); to detest (especially to persecute); by extension to love less: – hate (-ful). Jesus uses it in Luke 14:26 and it is commonly translated hate. But I think most people understand that verse to mean that we must love our family LESS than the Lord. That our love for our family must be less than our love for the Lord! Jesus wasn’t commanding us to HATE as the OPPOSITE of LOVE in this passage. He would have been commanding us to break His ten commandments if so!
I also deny the argument that states: “God must not love some because they are not elected to salvation.” God had made a legitimate offer to ever creature to obey Him and we all fell in Adam; and He’s made a legitimate offer to all who will accept Christ, even if He knows some will not. This is the argument that really says:
If God loves someone, it will manifest in this way.
Compelling as this argument sounds, I do not believe the scripture defines love as “will manifest in providing salvation.” We men make the assumption that God’s love must compel Him to do that which we define as good, or “the best” for that person who is the object of God’s love.
This argument fails because it won’t apply universally. Every time you encounter a various trial or evil, you could say, God must not love me because He has allowed this. In fact, God cannot love anyone by the logic provided, because He would be forced to have created us all perfect, not allowed Satan nor man to fall, nor anyone to die. But clearly that is not the case. As hard as it is to understand, in the wisdom of God, this was the best way…the only way.
Now, let’s explore some arguments that seem to support the idea that God does, in fact, love the non-elect.
Review a couple verses:
Matthew 22:39 ESV And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 5:44 ESV But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
I don’t see God asking us to do that which He doesn’t already do, with the exception of obvious “we’re not gods, we’re creatures” actions. There are some things that we cannot do that He can do. So for example, we cannot “be sovereign;” we are subject to the law whereas He is not. So he requires us to “do something” (obey the law) when He, in fact, doesn’t do the same thing in the same sense.
God clearly “kills”, whereas we are told not to. He can do this as the result of sovereign ownership over creation, something He has that we do not possess.
In general, when God commands us to be patient, loving, kind, merciful…etc, He also provides the example. In Christ, He’s offered a perfect example.
I am open to the idea that God does not LOVE the non-elect, but in my brief study of the topic, I have come to the conclusion that God certainly loves Himself perfectly, and that He also takes great pleasure in the works of His hands, e.g., His creation. As part of His creation, it could be inferred that He loves all His creatures, including the very vessels created for destruction.
And finally, I believe God is far more complex than we know, and He is capable of many seemingly contradictory ideas that our feeble and finite minds do not grasp.
With all that being said, I bring a scripture I found that caused me to pause in my earlier quick assertion that God doesn’t love the non-elect:
Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Anyone who reads the rest of the story will notice that the man “was not saved.” Yet the bible declares that Jesus “loved him.” This is agape love in the Greek. This leads me to the conclusion that God, who loves His creation, may also have a form of love toward the non-elect that doesn’t necessarily result in the same action toward them.
God’s very nature is Love. It is based on His perfection, not on the object of His love anyway, so it matters not how He treats every object of His love. That is why I reject the argument that God must only love those He saves.
John 3:16 KJV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Anthony Rodriguez says
You word things very well 🙂
Oh by the way there is a typo at the end of the first section: “This argument fails because is won’t apply universally.” I think you meant to type “… fails because it won’t apply…”
Thanks, spell check won’t catch that, will it? 😛
Matt B. says
Good job brother, I think you make a lot of good points. You are right about only using the Bible and not using man’s logic.
Chaplain M.C. Williams says
Interesting article bro, but on biblical grounds I reject your elect vs. non-elect position. God gives us free will and to state that there are those who have no choice in saying “yes” to Christ (born destined to hell) is not in keeping with God’s word or love. Yes, God, being all-knowing, already knows who will or will not repent and turn to Him as Lord. However, the miracle is that He still gives all the chance to turn and say “yes” to salvation via a life-changing/life-saving personal relationship with the Savior. See http://www.gotquestions.org/predestination.html
Thanks for commenting, Mike. Of course, on biblical grounds, I disagree as God has stated He has an elect or chosen people which were chosen before the foundations of the world and that those who are dead in their trespasses and sin cannot choose life. Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 1:4-5,11; Ephesians 2:1-4; John 3:3-7. I reject the free will gospel as only the sovereign God of the universe acts truly out of free-will. All creatures are subject to the governing will of the Creator. I trust that our love for Jesus Christ and His Word will lead us both to continue to seek Truth! I love you brother and all you do for the Lord!
Colossians 1 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints
Frank Zimmerman says
The principal of sovereign election is undeniable to the Bible student. Israel as a nation is where it is today because of election and the same principal is not foreign in the New Testament concerning the salvation of mens souls. To deny it is to pick and chose and to misrepresent it is to be walking on shaky ground as it were. I will offer my thoughts concerning God’s love for the elect and non-elect for what its worth. These are some conclusions I reached after meditating and studying as I encountered this teaching approx. 1 year ago and worked my way through it.
God loves the non-elect with a general love, he does NOT hate them but loves them in a different way than the elect( I’ll state my reason in a moment). Now the difference between the love that God has for the elect vs. non-elect is by virtue of the elcts position in Christ. The elect before we are placed “in Christ” are no different than the non-elect. The verse that helped me is in Romans 8. Verse 36 introduces this special love “who shall seperate us from the love of Christ”, now if you drop to the end of the chapter and look at the last statement he will tell you where this love is,”nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to seperate us from the love of God(not his general love for all men)”which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. He loves us in somekind of different way. Don’t know if its degree or what but it is not becasuse of who we are but rather because we have been identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. Our position in Christ is where this never ending love is, in Christ no where else.FZ
J.D Pilgrim says
I love your explanation of this topic, I too believe that God loves all, the unsaved, the saved, elect and non-elect.
Now the only part I disagree with you (this is a personal conviction not a religious believe based on tradition) is on the subject of free will, I am not a Calvanist or Arminiest. I do not discount that we are elected and neither will I discount that we have free will. Doing either of this will be ignoring the spoken word of God. According to Romans 10:12,13, everyone who believes will be saved. Why make that statement if we don’t have any choice in the matter. Also take a look at Luke 18:22,23 and you will see that Jesus himself gives the Young man an opportunity to come to him but the man refuses. Now, that was a choice he made. 1 Timothy 4:10 He is the savior to all men, especially those who believe. Keyword: All men.
Brother, I know that there is a believe system in certain denominations that stick to Calvinism and some Armenian-ism but I believe that the word of God is sovereign and parts of it should not be ignored, I am still just a bible student, I am no pastor but God says in 1st Cor 1:27 that he has used the foolish things of this world to confirm the wise. I don’t think its a matter of either or, I believe based on the infallible word of God, that he both elects and gives us a choice, how he does it, I have no clue. 🙂
Isa 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Hi JD. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I have little time right now…but I want to direct your attention to Ephesians 2:1-10. I do not get the impression that there is such a thing as free will, in the sense that anyone has a completely “free will.”
For example, you cannot will yourself to fly, can you? So we have a will, and a limited amount of freedom. I do not believe “free will” is a biblical concept. I believe that we all like sheep have gone astray , “of our own will.”
As for the passages where God says whoever shall come to Him, I don’t doubt for a minute that He means it. The problem is that none will come to Him in the state we are in (dead in trespasses and sin). The conclusion you draw “Why make that statement if we don’t have any choice in the matter.” doesn’t follow logically. And yes as for the rich young ruler, I have no problem with men being capable of making the choice to NOT CHOOSE God. It is choosing to believe the gospel and repent of sins without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit first which I cannot accept on biblical grounds.
1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
I’m thankful that my salvation is and always was up to God to produce and uphold. No one but Him can be trusted!
thanks for your post Michael!
Actually This question is really crucial to those who embrace Calvinism tradition, esp. for the hyper-Calvinists (with the double-predestination concept!)
I personally went to observed Mal 1:2-3 quoted by Romans 9:13 – and really couldn’t find any way to escape the interpretation of the term ‘hate’ as ‘absense of favor’.
The context of Mal1:2-3 seems to strongly suggest so that God actively against the reprobate.
Maybe, I might need to dig down more into the hermeneutics behind this scroll….sometimes.
But your finding is really clear the air – I totally agreed on the fact that you presented on the last line—in Mark10:21 — our Lord Jesus exemplifies it, and this thus gives me a strong evidence to understand more of the faith that I hold. =)
Iam only ankle deep in these thoughts but in Deut. 7 God explains His choosing Israel as a nation, which serves to help us understand election to salvation as well, in verse 7 it says God set His love on Israel in a way that He did not all the other nations that existed at that time and throughout history. Why? Verse 8 “because” He loves you.
Nothing in them but totally in His perogatve. Why? to demonstrate something to all the men of God something about himself to us that will drive us to value, esteem and worship Him and not our selves (II Ti.3:15-17, Eph. 3:14-21, Jn. 4:23).
Stephen Anderson says
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Rom 9:13 KJV)
Not Jacob I loved and Esau I loved and hated. The purpose of Paul is to show that God is sovereign in salvation and chooses whom He will mercy and whom He will harden. Jacob and Esau stand as contrasting examples. There is no where in Scripture that God says He loves the reprobate, the non-elect. Indeed Paul writes:
‘What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”‘ (Rom 9:22-25 NKJ)
So then, God desires to display His wrath against the non-elect, but puts up with them that He might make known the riches of His glory to His elect.
God must supremely love Himself for He alone is righteous, holy and good. Because God loves righteousness, He hates the wicked. He does shoe a benevolence to all in that He sends rain to the righteous and the wicked, but that benevolence only leads to a further condemnation of the wicked. The preaching of the Gospel is the odor of death to unbelievers. Any Christianity that is not theocentric is not Christianity at all.
Perhaps you position is rooted in your preference for an all-loving god rather than the God of Scripture.
Stephen – Brother, based on your comment it is almost impossible for me to believe you even read the entire post above. Everything you brought up in your comment is dealt with in the post.
If you want to believe that God hating Esau implies without a doubt that there is no sense of love from God toward all of His creation (including Esau), then that is your right, but maybe interacting with the post and the arguments made therein would be your best course of action instead of just stating some propositions. For example: dealing with Matthew 5:44 and Luke 14:26 would be a valid course of action in a dissenting comment – which I’d welcome.
Finally, if you are going to accuse me of simply preferring the “all loving god” rather than the God of Scripture, then again, I will refer you back to the post where it is clear that I did not portray the “all loving god” in the sense you are implying, especially considering my post clearly denies universalism in relation to salvation. But as well, the implication of your statement is that I believe in an idol which is not the God of the Bible, so whether it was your intention or not, you have effectively accused me of being outside the body of Christ.
I appreciate you commenting, but I have to ask you to hold yourself to a higher standard of argumentation than that.
On a side note – I liked your bookstore website and what you are trying to do there. God bless.
Bernard Hampton says
I really enjoyed reading this post, and the comments following. I also believe that love and hate are not mutually exclusive in God. For God to simultaneously love and hate one of (or a group of) His creatures is paradoxical in a sense, but not truly a logical contradiction. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference, and our loving, just, jealous, and uniquely holy God is definitely NOT indifferent.
“God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nahum 1:2-3)
Barry Atwell says
Thank you for your putting these thoughts down in such a well organized fashion. So far as it relates to the argument of God’s love for all of creation, I am in total agreement. One of the things you hit upon that could be expounded on even more is the used of the Greek word μισέω.
In the Greek language, this word has two very distinct ways of being used. One is a comparative use and the other is a use in isolation. When this word is used all by itself and not comparing two different things, it is used in the same way we typically use the word in English. For example, I John 2:11 and I John 3:15 it is used to describe how someone thinks/feel toward his brother without comparison to anyone else. In these instances, it simply means “hate.” As in the examples you gave, when it is used to compare how one feels about two different people or things, it is a word of comparison.
As you stated, we are commanded to love everyone yet in comparison to God, we are to love our family less.
God declares his love for the entire world in John 3. Peter writes that God does not will for any to perish but for all to come to repentance yet Paul writes that God has προορίζω (predestinated) his elect. This Greek word literally means to set boundaries. In secular literature, it was used as a real estate term. In other words, for his elect, he so orders things such that they will come to Christ.
The bottom line is that it does seem clear from scripture that God does love his creation and all who are in it created in his own image.
Good comment, Barry, and thanks for the Greek lesson!
God loves those who are in Christ chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God does not love the reprobate. There are two groups of people throughout all of scripture i.e. elect reprobate, sheep and goats, blessed and cursed, tares and wheat. Those that are cursed of God are sent to the lake of fire to be tortured eternally by God. Most of the things acquired by reprobates are done illegally and/or immorally. Satan gives riches to those who worship him (Matthew 4:9). All of the riches the wicked have are used to further damn them. God’s hate for the non elect is throughout all of the bible. The flesh hates this truth.
Thanks for commenting. Let us know if you’d like to interact with the post and the arguments made therein.
Jose Delgado says
Honestly, I am not at peace nor completely satisfied with this explanation… I agree that God doesn’t just love, but IS love himself (1 John 4:8) therefore, everything he does, is done in love and justice. But this poses a problem for the doctrine of election (humanity rejects God by our own free will [even though we can choose not to], but because of his sovereign grace, he choses to save some by the sacrifice of Jesus regardless of our own will). If he truly loves the non elect, then what is stopping him from saving them from eternal suffering and divine justice? Does this mean that he takes more pleasure in having mercy on only some and letting others suffer rather than choosing to let everyone be joyfully saved glorifying their creator and the same sovereign grace of his that the elect glorify? I can’t ignore how cynical that sounds. I don’t believe God is evil, as the Bible also says that there’s no darkness in him (1 John 1:5), but it definitely means that there’s something wrong, either with our interpretation or the translations. Maybe there’s missing information or too little thinking to come to a correct conclusion, but I wish to hear your thoughts on this.
Jose – I appreciate the humility and honesty in your question. I believe Hebrews 11 where it states that “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Keep seeking.
To answer your question, I would refer you to the doctrine of divine justice and God’s love for justice. God’s love for justice and His desire to exhibit ALL His attributes appears to answer the “why” question as sufficiently as possible (for we do not want to be like the Romans 9 objector).
God doesn’t save EVERYONE for the same reason He didn’t keep all the angels sinless. To work out His perfect plan to reveal His perfections to us, he created some as vessels of mercy and some as vessels of wrath. We could play the what if game all day. Why didn’t God keep Adam from eating the fruit? Why didn’t God just make all angels without the ability to sin, etc?
But we don’t know His mind as He does. What we know is that the existence of evil and the execution of his justice reveal things about Him to us which help us know Him better, and, thus, love Him more (because He is perfectly lovable, to know Him better can only lead a righteous man to love Him more).
So I don’t mean to dodge your question, but ultimately, the answer to why doesn’t God save everyone is for you and I to preach the gospel to as many souls as we can in the hopes that He will, through the preaching of His Word, save some.